Research conducted by ScotlandIS has shown a positive outlook for Scotland’s digital technology companies in 2018.
The 13th annual Scottish Technology Industry Survey reports that 80% of respondents expect a positive 2018, with nearly a third forecasting more than 50% increase in sales. Of the companies surveyed, 80% also plan to increase employee numbers in the next 12 months.
According to the survey, 68% of businesses recorded improved sales during 2017 compared to the previous year. Increased profit margins were reported by 47% of respondents for 2017, only 1% less than 2016.
Key challenges highlighted are staff recruitment and retention, developing new business and the current political situation. Staff recruitment concerns grew by 9%. Changes to regulations, such as the introduction of GDPR, emerged as a new challenge increasingly cited by respondents.
International markets remain a key focus for Scotland’s digital companies with 64% of businesses already exporting and a further 17% planning to do so. As in previous years, the top three export markets remain the Rest of the UK, Europe and North America. Europe has, however, replaced the Rest of the UK as the top destination for exporters.
In terms of people, the local marketplace is anticipated to provide the bulk of new talent with 70% expecting to recruit from within Scotland. Confidence appears to have grown in hiring from further afield with 19% planning to find new recruits mainly outside the UK, up from 9% last year.
73% of those responding said they were ‘definitely’ or ‘quite likely’ to recruit graduates. This figure has stayed relatively steady over the last five years. Demand for Modern Apprentices is up, with 45% saying they would be ‘definitely’ or ‘quite likely’ recruit in this way, compared to 38% in 2017 and 29% in 2016.
Software & web development and commercial & business support are the most in demand skills with around three-quarters of respondents identifying a need for these.
Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said: “The survey provides an important snapshot from those at the coal face in the industry. This year’s survey shows that Scotland’s digital technology industry is thriving with many of our businesses enjoying success at home as well as experiencing increasing overseas demand.
“The overwhelming majority of respondents are optimistic about the year ahead and are forecasting business growth. This is good news not just for our industry but the country as a whole as more jobs are created and investment increases across the sector.”